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There are so many things wrong with keeping cetaceans and other large marine animals in captivity, it’s hard to know where to start.
At the most basic level, these are intelligent creatures that cannot possibly live happily in small pens whether captive born or taken away from their natural habitat and family bonds.
Earthrace UK (www.facebook.com/earthraceuk), ran a Summer holiday campaign in 2012 designed to encourage holiday-makers NOT to visit any whale or dolphin shows, or to pay for 'swim with..' experiences. As well as working with environment, travel and young people’s media, we sent information and posters to 10,000 UK schools. You can download our posters for your own use from the links at the bottom of the page*.
We have also designed an 'art installation' that is a powerful illustration of the number of deaths in captivity of whales and dolphins around the world. See photo above. This caused a huge reaction when it was exhibited in October 2012 at Whale Fest in Brighton, UK for the second year running. One of the world's most highly respected authorities on captive cetaceans and passionate advocate for orca, Morgan (see below), Dr Ingrid Visser, was so moved by the installation that she used it in her own presentation at the event. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eE_FVC3XoeI&feature=youtu.be
The Dolphin Song Ft Leela B Even a four year old knows that dolphins drives and keeping cetaceans in captivity is wrong wrong wrong. As it's said (or rather sung) in this amazing video by ECO UK director, Lucy Byrne's daughter, Leela B, 'dolphins belong in the sea, not in captivity'. Shame more grown ups haven't worked it out yet! Big kudos to Leela's uncle, Tim Hawkins, who wrote the music and made the video! Keepin' it in the family...http://youtu.be/kNtNPBnwEjs
Black Days for the White Whales
The Georgia Aquarium is trying to gain permits to import 18 new beluga whales into the US for display and to sell on to other facilities. This needs to be stopped. Read more about the beleaguered belugas and how you can take action, http://www.earthraceconservation.org/black-days-white-whales-1.
In addition, in 2011, we initiated a global anti-captivity coalition - IMADA (The International Marine Animal Defenders Association).
Our anti-captivity campaign continues to pressure for:
- a ban on all wild capture of marine mammals for public display;
- transparency in the sourcing of all currently held and new captive marine mammals;
- the addressing of inadequacies in the Code of Ethics under which all organisations around the world keep marine animals in captivity.
There are only three responsible reasons for keeping marine mammals in captivity.
Rescue. Rehabilitation. Release.
The most common species kept in captivity for entertainment are beluga whales and dolphins including orcas or ‘killer whales’, along with seals, and sea lions. Sharks and an increasing quantity of Manta Rays are also being used for profit although these are rarely if ever used in specific ‘entertainment’ programmes, rather just kept on public display.
According to www.ceta-base.com, one of the most extensive databases of cetaceans in captivity, there are currently approximately 12 orcas, 290 other species of dolphin, and 43 beluga whales being held around the world. You can download our 'Tanks of Shame' flyer below.
Why is it so wrong?
Whales, dolphins and other large marine animals are designed to swim long distances in the wild, freely foraging for their own food and contributing to the balance of the marine eco-system as predators of lesser species.
There are high mortality rates among captive whales and dolphins including deaths from the stress of capture and from disease once confined. Evidence has been seen that some deaths are ‘covered up’ by the facilities in which they were held to avoid condemnation and further investigation.
The Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS) (http://www.opsociety.org) (which produced the Oscar winning film ‘The Cove’, reports that “dolphin and orca life expectancies are cut drastically in captivity. Most dolphins will live for upwards of 40 and 50 years in the wild, but in parks their survival rates are staggeringly low. At SeaWorld San Antonio, the average lifespan of a captive-bred dolphin is four years and at SeaWorld San Diego, 24 dolphins perished from pneumonia in 25 years.
Less than twenty orcas are known to have survived more than 20 years in captivity, while maximum life expectancy in the wild is 60 to 90 years. Nonetheless the captive industry continues to downplay higher mortality rates and claim that marine mammals are safer and healthier in their care.”
The OPS have also produced a timeline (The Dangers of Marine Mammals in Captivity) that looks in-depth at both deaths of marine mammals in captivity and deaths and injuries to the humans that are allowed to interact with them. You can download the report at the bottom of this page.
Whilst seals and sea lions may breed successfully in captivity, there are few places where these are held in sufficient numbers to sustain a ‘natural’ breeding population. Captive breeding programmes for these species serve no useful purpose other than providing more of them for people to pay to see, or to sell on to other facilities.
Cetaceans do not breed well in captivity – this has been proven time and again. There is no logic for maintaining them in captivity as a way of maintaining a species that may be vulnerable or in danger of extinction under the IUCN Red List or CITES.
Captive breeding programmes are simply an excuse – as with seals and sea lions – to provide more for people to look at or to sell on, both of which increase profits.
Unfortunately, the lack of success with breeding programmes from captive cetaceans only serves to increase the demand for them to be captured from the wild.
One of the most prolific suppliers of dolphins from the wild is Japan, which through their annual dolphin drives in places like Taiji, provide many new inmates for aquariums around the world. A wild dolphin can be sold for as much as $150,000, a lot more than the dolphin meat from the slaughtered dolphins will fetch.
Whilst many are sold to facilities abroad, the dolphin drives contribute enormously to the reason that Japan has more facilities holding captive dolphins than any other country in the world. It's estimated that fewer than 50% of dolphin captured from the wild survive for more than 90 days.
Many whale and dolphin species are naturally gregarious, curious and inquiring and they will often move closer to boats and human activities of their own accord, but this should always be on their own terms.
Under the correct conditions and with adherence to strict rules ensuring no harm comes to the them (for example, accidental boat strikes or encouragement through feeding), dolphin and whale watching programmes from boats are the best way for people to get close to these amazing creatures.
However, swim with dolphin and whale programmes are no more and no less than ‘entertainment’, just in another form.
The dolphins and whales become reliant on humans for food, health and company, and such programmes present dangers from disease and injury to both the animals and to those coming into close contact with them.
Even if pens are larger than those found in aquaria and marine parks and they are not forced to do tricks to entertain the crowds, these programmes are equally detrimental to their welfare.
Pens that are adjacent to open seas or oceans create further frustrations for the captive animals because, however hard they may want to, they cannot escape back to their natural habitat.
There is no way to guarantee that swimming with dolphins or whales, even in the wild, will be stress free for the animals, or won’t interrupt or intrude on their usual feeding practices and other aspects of their lives like nursing or resting.
Some swim tour operators have been known to feed dolphins to encourage them to remain close to swimmers to the extent that they become as reliant on this as much as any dolphin in a marine park or aquarium, and subsequently forget how to forage for food for themselves.
In some places where these programmes exist, evidence has been shown that dolphins will leave their original natural habitat for areas that are quieter and less targeted by human activities, proving that they do not naturally enjoy this type of interaction.
Dolphin assisted therapy (DAT)
There has been much made of dolphin assisted therapy where adults, and more especially children, with behavioural problems such as autism, are believed to gain benefit from interacting with dolphins on a one-to-one basis.
Two of the most cited pieces of ‘scientific research’ used by DAT advocates and both by the same key scientist – Nathanson (1997/1998) have been analysed by the team of Lori Marino, Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology Program, and Scott O. Lilienfeld, Department of Psychology, from Emory University.
Their analysis reveals Nathanson’s previous research to be seriously flawed. You can download the research paper at the bottom of this page.
In addition, more recent research from Nathanson himself in 2007 has shown that Therapeutic Animatronic Dolphins (TADs) were equally as effective as live dolphins when used in DAT. http://www.dolphinhumantherapy.com/Research/published_research.htm. In fact, his research showed that “For children with profound disabilities, TAD was significantly more effective in eliciting an orienting response of looking.”
Seems like dat should be the end of DAT then...
...but there are still facilities that offer expensive courses to those desperately searching for solutions and help for their loved ones.
As the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society of the UK notes in their 2007 report by Philippa Brakes and Cathy Williamson, “There is no official, global ‘industry standard’ to regulate or set criteria for what constitutes DAT. One of the consequences of this loose definition of DAT, and the lack of any official regulation of the practice, is that it has opened up the market for DAT programmes and facilities to proliferate across the globe with relative ease.”
Research Autism’s opinion is that “There is currently limited scientifically valid or reliable evidence to support the use of dolphin therapy for people with autism spectrum disorders. Dolphin therapy presents a number of ethical issues, and some physical threats, to both people and dolphins, which may be difficult to overcome. Of particular concern are the potential for aggressive behaviour by dolphins towards swimmers and the potential for disease transmission”.
Alternatives to dolphin therapy are available, at a much lower financial cost and without the potential harm to the people and the dolphins involved. http://www.researchautism.net/autism_treatments_therapies_intervention.i.... We believe it amounts to no more than fraud and should be banned world-wide.
One of the most famous orcas in captivity is Lolita, a 42 year old female that has been forced to live at the Miami Seaquarium (MS) since she was taken from Puget Sound in 1970. Pressure group, savelolita.com has for years, held monthly protests outside the MS, and two other groups are working extensively on plans that would enable her to be rehabilitated and released.
There is also a Save Lolita public service announcement (PSA) that was a finalist in the recent Blue Ocean Film Festival in the US which is well worth a viewing. Save Lolita PSA: http://vimeo.com/13900239
More about Lolita can be found here http://savelolita.org/the-plan and http://www.orcanetwork.org/captivity/2007proposaldraft.html
Morgan is a female orca that was captured off the coast of the Netherlands in 2010 under a rehabilitation and release permit. Despite being an excellent candidate for release, following a court case earlier this year, she was transferred from the Dolfinarium Hardwewijk to Loro Parque in the Canary Islands, where she is now on show to the public and being abused by another orca at the park.
The Free Morgan Foundation was set up to mount the legal challenge that would have started the process of enabling the orca to be returned to the wild. A second court hearing was held on 1st November in Amsterdam. Round up of those procedings http://endkillerwhalecaptivity.tumblr.com/post/34787767258/morgans-court...
We hope that this time, the judge takes on board the recommendations from over 30 expert marine scientists and not to those who seek to profit from her continued incarceration. A decision is expected to be announced on 13 December 2012.
A new and powerful Public Service Announcement video has been made on behalf of the Free Morgan Foundation by Underdog Entertainment. Watch it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yv83ojuqTtQ (www.UnderdogEntertainment.com).
Follow Morgan's story http://www.freemorgan.org/.
What you can do
Please, never pay to go to an aquarium, marine park or any other facility that holds captive cetaceans or other marine mammals.
If you know of people who do plan to visit one and cannot be dissuaded, ask them to take a camera and get good head and fin shots of each animal. Note the species, the quantity (including those they haven’t got photographs of), the date and location. This is best way to provide an actual identification of the animals, especially since names are often changed or animals are moved. They should then send the information to Ceta-base (firstname.lastname@example.org).
If you have a facility near you that keeps captive cetaceans or other marine animals, you can request our protest posters and flyers by emailing email@example.com. Feel free to use them and create your own local protest group. Let us know what you’re up to!
Contact Government departments as well as regulatory and professional organisations that represent the captive cetacean industry (AZA, IMATA for instance). You can find links to all of these here http://www.ceta-base.com/links.html as well as links to facilities that hold captives around the world.
Put pressure on them to introduction legislation that addresses the three goals of IMADA (above).
With your help, we can make sure that in future, all cetaceans and other marine mammals at risk of captivity remain wild and free – the way they were meant to be.
Dame Dr. Jane Goodall, UN Messenger of Peace, recorded a video clip in June 2011 for Singapore-based, ACRES (Animals Concerns and Research & Education Society http://www.acres.org.sg), to share her concerns about the plight of captive dolphins.
Below you will find links to useful pdfs including our current anti-captivity posters and flyers - feel free to use them!